Many readers of will be interested in an article by Joseph Ball, “The Need for Planning: The Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and the Decline of the Soviet Economy” that is available on-line at <<>>.

The article’s title may be off-putting to those who do not accept the ideas that capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union in the 1950s or that the Soviet economy declined thereafter. Whether the Soviet Union became capitalist at this time is a matter of definition.

While acknowledging that state ownership and planning remained in the Soviet Union after 1953, Ball rests his definition on the intentions as well as the actual policies of the Soviet leaders in the 1950s.

Ball’s view that the Soviet economy declined contains a similar hyperbole, since his actual concern is with why the Soviet economy after Stalin grew at a declining rate.

Hence, the article’s title should not be allowed to interfere with an appreciation of the information, analysis and argument that Ball puts forward.

Ball argues that Khrushchev and subsequent leaders replaced the state subsidies to industry (that had fostered innovation) with market mechanisms that “created a clear disincentive for innovation.”

Though Soviet leaders did this in order to catch-up with the industrialized West, it actually weakened growth. Meanwhile, the Soviet leaders failed to recognize the indisputable advantages that imperialism had given and continued to give to western economies, advantages that a socialist country could not replicate.

Ball grounds his analysis on Marxist sources as well as on many academic studies, where he has retrieved solid information from research otherwise colored by anti-Soviet prejudices. Along the way, Ball has thoughtful things to say about Stalin’s economic ideas, Marxist economic theory, the contradictions of socialism, the economic advantages of imperialism, and Soviet history.

Joseph Ball is the author of “Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward?,” in the online Monthly Review.

January 31, 2012